SANATOGA PA – Veteran Lower Pottsgrove Manager Rodney Hawthorne is officially gone from township government. He cleaned his office out in mid-December, and his last day on the municipal employment roster was Friday (Jan. 3, 2014).
Don’t expect him to disappear, though. He remains active as a volunteer in several community organizations, “and if you ever need me,” he reminded the public as he began retirement, “I’m not that far down the road!”
Hawthorne, who lives in Pottstown, reported months ago he would retire at year’s end, after a quarter-century of service in several positions of township management. The announcement set off a search for his successor, and resulted in the October appointment of his former assistant, Ed Wagner, as the township’s newest manager.
Lower Pottsgrove government is itself changing with Hawthorne’s departure. A new commissioner, Shawn Watson, will be sworn into office tonight (Monday, Jan. 6, 2014) during the Board of Commissioners’ reorganization meeting. Board leadership is anticipated to shift, and personnel changes and budget revisions also are being considered.
The quiet-spoken and occasionally philosophic Hawthorne regards those as minor alterations. The underlying beauty of township government, he said in comments to the board during its late December (2013) meeting, “is its stability.”
“Look at the make up of the boards (of commissioners) we’ve had,” Hawthorne noted. “They’re all filled with professionals, busy people who get things done and don’t waste time. Other nearby townships have been in turmoil. Here, we’ve never really had bad politics. And the changes that will come don’t mean we get off that track,” he said.
Since his start as a township employee in 1988, Hawthorne said he’s worked with only 17 commissioners, three board presidents, and two solicitors. “That’s a pretty good thing. And it all goes to the community’s credit,” he added, “that we’ve been lucky to have good commissioners.”
And board members, to a man, deemed themselves equally lucky to have worked alongside Hawthorne.
“There are not enough superlatives” to describe the man, Commissioner Michael McGroarty said. Hawthorne is “very savvy, politically astute, and has the ability to bring people to consensus.” Board President Jonathan Spadt called Hawthorne “tireless” and “selfless.”
“A true gentleman,” Commissioner Stephen Klotz added. Hawthorne “was almost like a father figure to me,” he said, “and when you care that much about a township it shows.” Board Vice President Bruce Foltz recalled “spending a lot of time” in Hawthorne’s office; sometimes on the same side of an issue, sometimes not. “We were always able to iron things out,” Foltz said.
“For first timers here, there’s always a big learning curve,” Commissioner James Kaiser acknowledged. “Rod helped almost all of us through that. Now,” Kaiser joked, “we need to get together for a couple of beers and a brat.”
“You say when. I’ll be there!,” Hawthorne laughed back.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Dec. 19 meeting):